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I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging front lately as the three weeks’ run up to and including Cheltenham right through until the end of the Grand National Meeting is my most manic six weeks of the year from a work perspective. The blogs will increase to 2-3 a week again from next week after the Grand National and The Masters have taken place when I shall be in Spain with my laptop taking a few days out. With regards to The Masters, I will upload my preview on Tuesday where I will be gunning for a sixth straight profitable golf tournament.
I head out to Spain most years for this particular week as, although I can recharge the batteries, I’m not one for sitting by a pool all day so need my mind to be occupied, therefore having the Cheltenham April, Craven, Greenham and Scottish National Meetings to focus on keeps me happy. This year whilst out there I will also be writing a preview of the World Snooker Championship for the Sport section of the website which starts on April 16th. I also have a strong view on the Ryder Cup that I will also cover whilst away for the week in addition to embarking on listening to the Eurovision entries in earnest. We all have our own way of relaxing! The first Horses to Follow of the Flat season will be published on the Thursday after the Craven/Greenham meetings.
Well done to Paul Smith who covered the T20 Cricket World Cup so well for us and I hope that you enjoyed the way he came at each game. Nice for us too that the West Indies won having been part of his pre-tournament portfolio at 12/1 even though it wasn’t so nice for England supporters. England might have been as short as 1-10 on Betfair before Stokes bowled the final over but it was never really in doubt was it?! Their victory meant that Paul made an 8.2% return on investment over the event and he will return to cover England’s home test matches this summer for us.
Onto Aintree where I shall be between Wednesday-Saturday and as many as 87 horses were left in the Crabbie’s Grand National after today’s five-day confirmation stage, the vast majority knowing that they have zero chance of getting a run. I wonder if they still get four free entrance badges per horse for having a five-day entry? They've contributed to the prize pool so fair enough if so.
There is a growing movement towards changing the Who Runs system. Quite right. Lee Mottershead made a good case today in The Racing Post for a change as did Timeform’s Jamie Lynch on Attheraces. For all that it is billed correctly as the most exciting race in the world, it can’t be right that big-name horses don’t get in so, as a one-off case, changes should be made so that the star names can run which would add plenty more excitement to the race. I am sure that it will happen at some point so let’s just get on with it please.
I do like the idea of ‘Win and You’re In’ races as with the Breeders’ Cup and Melbourne Cup. It’s very likely that the Welsh Grand National winner, Mountainous, won’t get in and it would be even sillier given that it is promoted as the trial by Jockey Club Racecourses (who also run Aintree) if the Betfred Grand National Trial winner at Haydock, Bishops Road, is balloted out. He needs two more to come out after seven above him were jettisoned today. Ditto Highland Lodge who won the Becher Chase, which was introduced into The Racing Calendar in 1992 by JCR with getting in experience of the Grand National course in mind and he is an even bigger danger of missing out as he needs five to come out.
Also in serious danger of missing out is the 2014 winner, Pineau De Re. If Ian Woosnam can still play in The Masters…..etc. Also in danger of missing out is the fourth for the last two years, Alvarado, whereas the Kim Muir winner, Cause Of Causes, would be nearly favourite being as much as 13lb ‘well in’ if he was to get a run, but he now doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance being number 50. Odd that he can run in last year’s Grand National (finished eighth), then bolt up at the Cheltenham Festival by 12 lengths in the Kim Muir (which has been the best guide from the Festival over the last 30+ years) the following spring but not get in.
If you want to read my pure trends guide to all races at Aintree, that will be uploaded over the next day or two on the Attheraces Aintree megasite. Just visit their normal website and click on Aintree. I have also written a Grand National preview on Oddschecker and have been writing articles for the official Aintree racecard in addition to organising giant posters of the runners that will be positioned all over the racecourse. I include the latest of the racecard features on the bottom of this blog which might be of interest to those who fancy Many Clouds to become the first horse to win back-to-back Grand Nationals since Red Rum.
I’ll be looking at some of the other races at Aintree in Big Race Focus on Wednesday at 1.00 p.m. plus the 2000 Guineas and will be uploading the daily previews for Aintree by 6.00 p.m. the day before.
It’s going to be a very different Grand National Meeting this season with Willie Mullins sending over many of his big guns in his bid to win the Trainers’ Championship so trainers who usually fare well at this meeting are likely not to be very pleased about that.
The main man in recent seasons has been Nicky Henderson who couldn’t buy a winner at this meeting for love nor money until 2008. Since then, however, he has saddled 27 winners in the last eight Grand National meetings which is pretty damn good. Contrast that to between 1997-2007 where he trained just three winners (2%) from 126 runners. Now that is what I call some turnaround.
The Record of Last Year’s Winner
We examine the prospects of whether Many Clouds can emulate the great Red Rum in respect of becoming the first horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Crabbie’s Grand National by looking back at the record of the previous season’s winners’ record since 1974.
For many, the leading story of this season’s Crabbie’s Grand National is whether Many Clouds can become the first horse since Red Rum to win consecutive runnings of the world’s greatest steeplechase? Red Rum then added his glorious third victory in 1977.
Given that Many Clouds is likely to start favourite carrying only 1lb more than when he was successful last year off 11st 9lb, as no horse is allowed to carry more than top weight of 11st 10lb in the modern era, he has a great chance of creating further history in the ownership of Trevor Hemmings who also won the Grand National with Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs.
Other horses to have won back-to-back Grand Nationals are Abd-El-Kader (1850 & 1851), The Colonel (1869 and 1870) and Reynoldstown (1935 and 1936). The Lamb and (1868 & 1871) and Manifesto (1897 & 1899) have also won the Grand National twice but not in consecutive years.
Since the Red Rum years (he was also second in 1975 and 1976 in addition to his record three triumphs), the closest that the previous year’s Grand National winner has come to winning back-to-back runnings was when Hedgehunter finished second in 2006, a feat then mirrored by Comply Or Die three years later. That said, last year’s winner has not run in the following season’s Grand National on 14 occasions since 1977 and, of course, there was no defending title holder in 1994 following the void race of 12 months earlier.
Five other winners returned with great credit the following season finishing third or fourth; Corbiere, West Tip, Papillon, Monty’s Pass and Don’t Push It. Furthermore, another three winners in Grittar, Bindaree and Ballabriggs finished just out of the places in fifth and sixth.
Some off-course bookmaking firms choose to extend their each-way terms to pay out down to fifth or sixth place for each-way bets for the Crabbie’s Grand National so, given those stats of the defending title holder, then that is something that each-way backers of Many Clouds may want to explore.
What supporters and connections of Many Clouds certainly won’t be wanting is to befall the same fate of Aldaniti and Hallo Dandy who fell at the very first fence in the first half of the 1980s when they returned the following season bidding to add to their greatest triumph from the previous spring.
The only other reigning Grand National winners to fall the following year since Red Rum doubled up was the Scottish-trained Rubstic who failed to negotiate The Chair in 1980 and Mon Mome, who exited at the fifth-last fence 30 years later.
Record of last year’s winner since Red Rum completed back-to-back Grand National victories in 1974:
1975: Red Rum (2nd)
1976: Red Rum (2nd)
1977: Rag Trade (did not run)
1978: Red Rum: (did not run)
1979: Lucius (did not run)
1980: Rubstic (fell 15th)
1981: Ben Nevis (did not run)
1982: Aldaniti (fell 1st)
1983: Grittar (5th)
1984: Corbiere (3rd)
1985: Hallo Dandy (fell 1st)
1986: Last Suspect (pulled up)
1987: West Tip (4th)
1988: Maori Venture (did not run)
1989: Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (did not run)
1990: Little Polveir (did not run)
1991: Mr Frisk (pulled up)
1992: Seagram (pulled up)
1993: Party Politics (race void)
1994: No race in 1993
1995: Miinnehoma (pulled up)
1996: Royal Athlete (did not run)
1997: Rough Quest (did not run)
1998: Lord Gyllene (did not run)
1999: Earth Summit (8th)
2000: Bobbyjo (11th)
2001: Papillon (4th)
2002: Red Marauder (did not run)
2003: Bindaree (6th)
2004: Montys Pass (4th)
2005: Amberleigh House (10th)
2006: Hedgehunter (2nd)
2007: Numbersixvalverde (6th)
2008: Silver Birch (did not run)
2009: Comply Or Die (2nd)
2010: Mon Mome (fell)
2011: Don’t Push It (3rd)
2012: Ballabriggs (6th)
2013: Neptune Collonges (did not run)
2014: Auroras Encore (did not run)
2015: Pineau De Re (12th)